Google pips Apple in 2005 brand poll

Internet search engine Google has retaken first place in the 2005 global poll of the world's most influential brands, while the eBay-owned web phone service Skype makes its debut at No. 3.

The annual survey compiled by online branding magazine often throws up controversial results, such as in 2004, when Arabic TV station Al Jazeera was voted the world's fifth most influential brand (down to 25th place this year).

But this year, the 2,528 branding professionals and students who voted came up with more conventional and -- perhaps unsurprisingly for an online poll -- tech-heavy answers when asked "Which brand had the most impact on our lives in 2005?"

Google Inc, the minimalist search engine which has expanded regionally and moved into new markets areas as its price comparison service Froogle, last topped the poll in 2003, and for 2005 reclaims its top slot from Apple Computer Inc, which came in second this year.

Skype, which offers free calls to other Skype users and charge everyone else, crashes in at third place in the global list, while omnipresent coffee chain Starbucks Corp and Swedish furniture chain Ikea take fourth and fifth place respectively.

The poll does not take account of economic brand value, the dark science of assigning a financial value to brands, which regularly puts Coca-Cola Co's Coke in first place.

Neither is the survey too fussy about whether the reported brand impact is positive or negative, so the winners need not necessarily take too much credit.

Brandchannel also breaks down the results by region, and in North America the top three -- Apple, Google and Starbucks respectively -- are strikingly similar to the global outcome, with retailer Target Corp taking fourth place, and cycling legend-cum-human brand Lance Armstrong in fifth.

The top five places in the European list are from homegrown corporations, with Finland's Nokia topping the poll, followed by Ikea and Skype and then Zara, Spanish Inditex's ultra-hip fashion chain. Carmaker BMW is fifth on the European grid.

Likewise, the top four in the Asia-Pacific region -- Sony Corp, Toyota Motor Corp, Samsung and LG Corp are all, in a sense, local. Fifth-placed HSBC has Asian roots but is headquartered in London.

And in a refreshing change from the high-tech brands that dominate in the rest of the world, Latin America's top two are party beverages Corona and Bacardi, with mobile phone operator Movistar in third. Sandal maker Havaianas takes fourth place and Mexican building materials group Cemex is fifth.

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